Dunnes Stores workers who claim their working conditions are ruining their living standards have taken a claim to the Labour Court.
Through the Mandate union, the employees have accused the company of refusing to attend a Labour Relations Commission (LRC) conciliation hearing on their concerns.
The workers claim temporary contracts, short-hour contracts, and differing pay rates mean they are often reliant on welfare payments such as family income supplement and back-to-school allowances, funded by the taxpayer, to make ends meet.
While Dunnes workers have been awarded two 3pc pay increases in the last two years, they say their claim now is not about basic pay rates, but focuses on conditions of work.
Dunnes Stores employs approximately 10,000 workers in 112 stores across Ireland.
Mandate launched their Decency for Dunnes Workers' campaign in May, highlighting four key issues as "decent hours and earnings; job security; fair pay; and representation and right to dignity at work".
Mandate said it has written to Dunnes on several occasions on their members' issues of concern and seeking a meeting with management but so far the company has declined.
Among the main demands by the union's members is for contracts which would provide secure hours and earnings for Dunnes workers.
"At present, an employee might be working 40 hours one week and only 15 hours the next," said David Gibney of Mandate.
"We are looking for banded hours that provide some certainty for workers as to their weekly earnings and their rosters," he said.
He said that such bands have been negotiated with other retailers, including a 15 to 25-hour, a 25 to 35-hour band, and a 35-hour-and-more band.
Mandate was highly critical of Dunnes Stores in their letter of referral for a Labour Court hearing stating the union had been "continuously frustrated" in their efforts to effectively represent issues of importance to their members.